Seven months! A lot has happened in the seven months since my last update. Those of you who follow on social media are more informed, but until now, I haven’t been able to find my way back to this blog.
What happened in seven months? I finished one semester of grad school and started another (now I am finally in my last year!) At work, we’ve had 3 different performance weekends, eight weeks of summer camp, and have closed out one school year and begun another. In life, we went to Maine for the first time, we got a puppy(!) and we bought a house!!
It has been hectic. And different. And the biggest thing I’ve learned over these seven months is that I am really, really bad with change. Even all of this good change, filled with cuddly animals and celebration. I finally feel like I am finding my footing once more, now that we have gotten through the summer. Minnie, our puppy, is almost six months old. We are beginning to see glimpses of rational dog behavior, rather than just chaotic puppy (although there is still plenty of that each day!) Most of the house is unpacked. It feels a bit more like home. And I am back to my school year schedule, which is always easier to manage than the summer camp schedule.
I am still trying to figure out our food. All this change in our lives led to a lot of change in our eating habits, our spending habits, my cooking time…everything. When I was last present on this blog, I was just finishing up a month-long round of AIP. I’ll be honest–I more than rushed my re-introductions. I threw any sense of restraint to the wind and just ate all of the various things I had avoided for thirty days (sweet, sweet eggs were back in the breakfast rotation.) My very last, 30th day of AIP was actually the day before we moved out of our apartment. Amidst the hectic move and deep-cleaning that followed, I ate whatever was available. I am very thankful that I didn’t have much of a reaction to any of the foods added back in.
The biggest effect of my AIP round was that my skin cleared up significantly. I don’t have a lot of acne, but I have pretty persistant acne around my chin. Judging as best I can, the triggers for it are likely dairy and sugar. While I have tried (with varying success) to watch my sugar intake, I am still completely obsessed with all things cheese, ice cream, whipped cream, yogurt, etc. So I am not making any serious moves to take out dairy yet. I’ve been rather lax about my skincare routine throughout my life, so I am going to try to be better with cleansing and caring for my skin first. Perhaps I can find more balance while still keeping dairy in my life.
After further research, I believe that most of my digestive issues (the reason I tried AIP in the first place) stemmed from side effects of my gallbladder removal and from stress. I am exploring my options for managing both in much better ways than I was last Spring.
I’ve been feeling a little stuck in my food habits lately, so I am refocusing on traditional preparations to liven things up. I’ve revived my neglected SCOBY to make my own kombucha and I am planning to make a second attempt at raising up a powerful gluten-free sourdough starter. I’ve got several bags of bones in the freezer, ready to be used in bone broth. I am also exploring ways of souring and soaking grains to make the nutrients more available. Frankly, we don’t yet have the food budget to cut all grains out (they are such a cheap way to pad out a meal), so I might as well try to make these foods work better with our digestive systems. I made a riff on Nourished Kitchen’s baked soaked oatmeal for our breakfasts this week and it has been amazing. I love the stodginess and comfort of oatmeal. M is not really a fan. But this baked oatmeal can be cut in bars and eaten like a cake, so he has enjoyed it as well.
In the same vein of traditional food practices, I am hoping to start fermenting more–M loves sauerkraut and it seems so silly to pay $9 for a quart of it when I can make twice that amount with one $2 head of cabbage. I am looking at our food budget and trying to come up with a plan that would allow us to invest in more sustainable and ethical meats and animal products. We’ll see how it goes! I hope to be back here more frequently!
In the meantime, here are a few photos of the important things (mostly dogs):
I’ve hit the three week slump, I think. My cravings, which mostly went away after week 2, have come back. Or maybe it’s just the influx of delicious Super Bowl party foods, which are some of my favorites. Potatoes, dips, nachos, deviled eggs (I don’t even eat them that often…why has this been such a consistent craving?!), sweets…the list goes on and on. This was definitely an influence in our dinner plans this week (meatballs, wings, and dip all make an appearance) and an influence on my shopping cart as well (yes, flavored seltzer and sweet potato chips made their way in there.)
This slump/cravings wave could also be from stress, I suppose. I have a work event tomorrow (only plus is that it’s during the Super Bowl, so I’m less tempted by all the foods than if I were attending a party. And yes, it’s during the Super Bowl. We are arts people. We don’t care about sports ball. Haha!). Our largest program for work starts next weekend and still requires a lot of prep this week. My class has started, and while I love the professor and it’s lots of fun, it’s also adding homework to the mix. And finally, I’ve only just put together that we are renting a moving van on February 19 and it’s already February 4 and that means WE ARE MOVING IN TWO WEEKS. EEK!
We are leaving our little apartment complex (and our garden plot and the walking paths and the neighbors–I’m trying not to let myself be sad yet) to move back in with my mother, briefly, while we look for a house to buy. Ahhhh…adulthood, as usual, is both scary and exciting. But right now, I can only focus on the fact that I haven’t packed at all yet, so that will be consuming most of my time in the next few weeks. I’ve gotta get some boxes!
In spite of my frustration with AIP, I have stuck with it. Thankfully, I am far enough in that I have the valid and powerful excuse of “past-halfway” and thus, why would I throw that away now. Let’s hope my resolve holds strong. My breakfasts and lunches have still, mostly, stayed on track. Both of those times of day, it is evident that I need to eat something, so I just eat and get it over with. Its much more of a Food Is Fuel mentality. This is actually a little refreshing sometimes, rather than worrying to make sure that something is awesomely delicious at every meal. I’m still trying to be creative with dinner, though. Having two leftover nights a week is helpful, for sure. We make sure to clear out the fridge and it take away some of the food prep. Also, since I get home around 8pm after class, it’s naturally happened that we have had soup every Thursday. I think I may try to stick to that trend, as it’s quick and easy after my long day.
I was just over $75 this week, but I did get a lot of meat (and those few extra indulgences). I also did my best to get the highest quality of meat in the type that I wanted. That means organic ground beef, totally “regular” chicken wings, and chicken breasts and bacon that fall somewhere in between. In another couple of weeks, when the protocol is finished, we will have to evaluate our budget and our eating habits once again.
Here’s what we spent:
Aldi (food items): $57 (vitamins don’t pull from food budget)
Trader Joe’s: $7.84
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Here’s what we got:
Aldi: 12-pk seltzer, pomegranate juice, dates, fresh ginger, garlic, blueberries x2, beef broth x 2, cauliflower, 3 lbs onions, serrano ham, ~3 lbs chicken breasts, ~4 lbs chicken wings, 1 lb ground beef, 1 lb thick-cut bacon
Trader Joe’s: sweet potato chips, coconut milk, coconut aminos, sweet potatoes
HH Produce Box: 2 lbs purple & green brussels sprouts, broccoli, yellow squash, romaine lettuce, oranges, onions, apples
Here’s what we’re eating:
Sunday: Out/Leftovers I’m not sure what of the hors d’oeuvres I will be able to eat, so I am snacking before and fully prepared to eat some leftovers at home afterwards.
Monday: Chicken Schwarma, Coconut Tzatziki sauce, Roasted Brussels sprouts another new recipe to try. I think we still have a GF pita in the freezer if M wants one. And maybe I’ll remember to take photos of this awesome Tzatziki sauce, so I can share it with you!
Tuesday: Leftovers I work late, so I’ll cobble something together from the fridge
Wednesday: Honey Garlic Baked Chicken Wings, Sweet Potato Fries, Yellow squash Time to feed those Super Bowl cravings!
Thursday: French Onion Soup + Salad I’ll nix the cheese+bread, and the red wine from my usual recipe, but the onion-y beef-y goodness remains.
Friday: Swedish Meatballs with Mash and Roasted Brussels Sprouts Very different from my preferred recipe. But…it’ll be some kind of meatball in gravy, plus my new favorite cauliflower-parsnip mash. A super substitute for mashed potatoes: 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets. 2 large parsnips, peeled and diced. Boil until soft, drain, and then mash like potatoes, with coconut milk, salt, and garlic, until you achieve the consistency of mashed potatoes.
Saturday: Leftovers Clear out the fridge again!
Breakfasts will be plates of protein (bacon or sausage), veg (greens or sweet potatoes), fat (avocado), and probiotics (sauerkraut or kombucha). Lunch will be leftovers + fruit. Snacks will be sweet potato chips, ham, fruit, and seltzer.
After a very successful last week, I was a little stumped when it came to planning this week. I’ll be honest, I found my veggies this week slightly un-inspiring. Yellow squash isn’t a favorite, and after last week’s cauliflower, I was out of my go-to recipes. But some Pinterest trolling reminded me of a few different dishes that I wanted to try, and adapt to be AIP. Now that I’ve picked them, I think this will actually be a very delicious week of dinners!
I successfully navigated eating AIP at a restaurant this weekend! I’ve also managed to avoid feeling too tempted during thee grazing hour at my office. I never really noticed how frequently we have snacks coming in and out until I couldn’t eat them. Obviously, this challenge has been strengthening my self-control, which is actually nice. It the past, if something was “off-limits”, I’d just find another food to fill the sugar-craving or the dessert-craving or the crunchy-craving or whatever. While I’m still dealing with sugar-cravings (mostly with too much dried fruit), there aren’t really AIP-alternatives that are easy to find or make. Most desserts require somewhat complicated recipes and, after making all my other meals, I don’t feel like cooking anymore. So instead of just impulsively answering the craving, I’m learning to just sit with it. And guess what? I survive the craving and usually, its not so important as to be remembered in an hour or two.
I think I’ll learn the most about myself this month, and it won’t necessarily be what foods “work” or “don’t work” for me. This AIP round has kicked off a little bit of self-reflection that I am trying to hold on to throughout it all. We’ll see how it goes.
Another saving grace during these AIP weeks has been “gummies” or “fruit snacks” that I’ve made with gelatin powder, a bit of honey, and fruit juice. I’ve made sure to use fruit juice without added sugar and only one batch per week. This allows for about a handful a day, which I slip into my lunch box or have as dessert. It’s more the texture than the sweetness that I’m craving. This week, I’ll use some of my Hungry Harvest add-on item: Watermelon-Tart-Cherry Juice.
I forgot to snap a photo of our receipts this week, but I do think it was much closer to the $75-$80 range, which is exactly where I want to be, budget-wise! $20 to the vegetable box, $20 for odds and ends at Giant, and another $35-ish at Trader Joe’s for the bulk of this week’s groceries.
Here’s what we got:
Trader Joe’s: Unsweet shredded coconut, mint, carrots, parsnips, limes, “tiny” avocados, frozen coconut, coconut milk, dried beet chips, 2 lbs ground chicken, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, plantain chips, freeze-dried strawberries, broccoli, bananas
Giant: fresh basil, fresh cilantro, 1 lb shaved pork, 2 lbs beef short ribs
Hungry Harvest Box: watermelon-cherry juice, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, zucchini, yellow squash, apples, kiwis, oranges
Here’s what we are eating:
Sunday: Braised Beef Shortribs, Cauliflower-Parsnip Puree, Roasted Brussel Sprouts Shortribs have been on my list for ages, but were never in the $50 budget last year. I still want to try Deb’s recipe, but for now, I’ve made my own AIP-compliant broth with balsamic vinegar. I’ll slip a little horseradish in the cauls-parsnip puree, and the sprouts will put some green on the plate.
Monday: Fiona’s Green Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, Sautéed Yellow Squash Another recipe that I’ve had my eye on–all those herbs have got to be good! Otherwise, keeping the veggie sides simple.
Tuesday: Leftovers I work the late shift, so we’ll clear out the fridge after the weekend.
Wednesday: Larb Gai with Sautéed Broccoli, & Avocado This ground chicken, pungent with lime and fish sauce, is one of my go-to dishes at Thai restaurants. I usually add a side of rice to make this traditional appetizer into a full meal, but I’ll round it out with veg and healthy fats for AIP.
Thursday: Carrot Ginger Soup Just something simple after my class. I get snack-y during my three-hour class, so I’m never too hungry once I get home. This quick and easy soup does the trick, with a punch of ginger to keep things interesting.
Friday: Pho with Zoodles So good that we are repeating it! Shaved pork was on sale, so we’ll switch it up a little from last week’s shaved steak. Pho really makes the best leftovers for lunch the next day and this has been one of our favorite AIP dishes yet. The trick is to keep the noodles fairly raw (just warm) so that they don’t disintegrate in the broth.
Saturday: Leftovers Clearing out the fridge again!
Breakfasts will be my usual combo of protein (bacon or sausage), greens, sauerkraut and/or kombucha for probiotics, and sweet potato or avocado. Lunches are leftovers and a piece of fruit. Snacks are plantain chips, beet chips, dried strawberries, and gummies.
We are one week into my AIP journey. Things are going well, I suppose. I’ve found I can very quickly start to focus on everything that I miss…but as that won’t help anything for the next 23 days, I’m doing my best to just not think about it. In that mindset, I have realized that I need to spend far less time on Instagram and Pinterest, because food is PROMINENT on both of my feeds. You’d think I enjoy cooking, or something! I’ve had friends who do a round of Whole30 and I watched them spend the whole time Pinning all these decadent, non-Whole30-compliant recipes…I don’t know how they can stand it. I’d be out of compliance in a minute. Needless to say, I am now taking suggestions of books, TV Shows (not-food-related), and hobbies to take up my new found time! Hahaha.
It is nice to notice all of the changes that are happening after just a few days on AIP. My sugar cravings haven’t been insurmountable–though they are starting to pick back up in this second week. Thankfully, I’m already noticing just the barest amount of sugar in ingredients. Fruit is awesome. Coconut milk is too–even the unsweetened version already tastes nice and sweet. I seem to be sleeping better–I feel like I am waking up less. Of course, this may be the sudden absence of my daily caffeine, which is making me a little grumpy around 3pm and 8pm each day. (And I use to really only have coffee in the morning…I’m surprised at how long the effects lasted!). But my general, non-stimulated fatigue might be the cause of my better sleeping. Maybe I’m just more tired!
Last week I made really lovely beef koftas and green, tomato-less tabbouleh; a super filling broccoli salad; the love-child of meatballs and chicken nuggets (aka Sweet Potato & Chicken Poppers); and wonderful bacon-wrapped shrimp. Last week was Sauces week. I made Coconut Milk Tzatziki which was STELLAR! My first foray into AIP sauces, and, given how important dipping sauces are in my life, I should have guessed that it would make all the difference. I’ll have to make the tzatziki again, as I didn’t take any photos and I want to share the recipe here, but it was so good! AIP cuts all spices that are…well, spicy, because they are made from peppers or seeds. But a couple cloves of grated raw garlic in the tzatziki added a zing that seemed very spicy! I might….maybe…just like Coconut Milk Tzatziki better than the regular stuff. Or I’ve been so deprived the last week that my brain cannot remember the real stuff. :). I don’t think its quite that serious…
On the first week, I craved cottage cheese, deviled eggs, yogurt, and mayo. Obviously missing that unctuous-ness that comes from eggs and/or full-fat dairy. At this beginning of week two, I’m craving nut butters. It is interesting to me that I’m still craving high-fat foods, as I am still consuming a lot of fat on AIP: avocado, coconut products, and pork sausage or bacon make it onto my plate on a daily basis. I think a sizable portion of my cravings are actually for textures…if I could just eat something that has the same texture as cheesecake, it would be total heaven. In the meantime, I’m making batches of gummies from gelatin and fruit juice, which seems to tide me over.
This week, we had our harvest box delivered once again. It has been so easy with Hungry Harvest–I just updated my “Never List” to include nightshades (tomatoes, all peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant) for the duration of my AIP. Any nightshades that are slated to be in the weekly box will be swapped out for something I can eat, without my lifting a finger! Without tomatoes and eggplant, my veggie haul this week was very green and gold, my alma mater’s colors. Woot.
I did a little better on my budget this week, since I had less to stock up on. It was just under $90, but I feel like I purchase A LOT of meat products. TJ’s has jacked up the price on their shaved steak, but, since I am preparing all of my meals at home from scratch for the next 30 days, I am allowing myself to cut corners when I can. That means store-bought shaved steak and tubes of pureed fresh ginger and garlic from last week. Right now, it’s definitely worth the extra money.
I’m hoping I might be able to the budget closer to $75 next week…we’ll see how it goes.
Here is what we spent this week:
Trader Joe’s: $36.86
Hungry Harvest Box: $20.00
Here is what we got:
From Stores: cabbage, 3 lb onions, 1 lb ground chicken, 4 lb BI,SO chicken thighs, 2 packets tuna, apple cider vinegar, black olives, prosciutto, bacon, dried figs, plantain chips, mushrooms, blueberries, cucumber, 1 lb shaved steak, coconut aminos, arugula, baby kale, coconut milk x3, applesauce, limes, roast beef, giant green olives, matcha powder
From HH produce box: zucchini x2, leek, fennel, honeymoon melon, lettuce, cauliflower, onions, avocados, grapefruit, apples
And here is how we are eating:
Sunday: Cracklin’ Chicken, Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower, & Coconut-Creamed Spinach: NomNomPaleo’s chicken thighs were super tasty, and fresh cauliflower florets were a nice change from sweet potato in filling the “starchy” part of the plate. The only change made to my beloved CC Spinach is leaving out the garam masala and chili flakes. I missed that flavor, but this whole dinner touched on some Indian food notes, which was refreshing!
Monday: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Cauliflower Rice I’m please with this end result, riffing off of my copycat recipe for PF Chang’s wraps. A smidge of honey and some extra vinegar helped to take over for the usual hoisin sauce. I was also happy to use water chestnuts and wasabi–two ingredients that I would never have guessed to be AIP compatible! Looking forward to a little more spice with wasabi in the mix. I did misjudge the lettuce that we got from Hungry Harvest–this was more like Lettuce Bites, because the leaves were small!
Tuesday: Leftovers Working the late shift, but we have plenty left over from Sunday and Monday.
Wenesday: AIP Sushi with “Hot and Sour” Soup My first attempt at cauli-rice sushi. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for success. Soup will be just bone broth with a few doctoring additions (vinegar, coconut aminos, wasabi, etc) to get all those traditional hot & sour flavor profiles.
Thursday: Crockpot Pho with Steak & Zoodles I was very excited to get fennel in our box–I think a portion blackened up for the broth alongside the ginger and onion will lend the licorice flavor that I usually get through anise-seed–which is off-limits on AIP. I also love in raw, so I will slice up the rest for a cold salad alongside my lunches later in the week. I haven’t had much luck with zoodles in the past…we shall see!
Friday: AIP BBQ Pork-stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Cole slaw I found a recipe with apple butter as the base, but couldn’t find any apple butter at the store. So I’ll use the applesauce to make a quick cheat’s apple butter in the microwave and then use that as the base for my BBQ sauce, to go over the pork from the freezer.
Saturday: Leftovers Time to clear out the fridge for next week’s shopping!
As usual, the end of my year was hectic and harried, though happy enough! Last week, M and I went off on our usual winter beach trip and now we are back. Time to return to routine and catch up on sleep, vegetables, organization, packing…
Yes, packing. After three years in our apartment, M and I are moving out. Back into one of our mothers’ homes for a brief stint as we figure if we want to look for a home to buy and find another place to rent. Still a little unknown because taxes and money and mortgages and realtor vocabulary and adulthood are tough. So, while part of me is excited for changes and the drive to organize, condense, and pack; another part of me is dreading all of that. Moving back in with roommates/parents wasn’t really on our plans, but it makes the most sense. Both of our mothers are fairly local and obliging and it saves us the risk of having to pay rent and a mortgage overlapping. But its a huge, kind of scary, very new change. There is a lot of unknown is all of this, and I realize that M and I have both adjusted quite well to the comfortable and familiar. This is a big change.
Also, in the midst of this countdown to moving, I am doing a round of the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP). While I haven’t been diagnosed with any AI diseases, I have been reacting to something. Since September of last year, I’ve had more days per week with…digestion issues…than normal days. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been quite as easy to figure out the trigger as it was when I was reacting similarly to gluten. I was eating something gluten-filled at nearly every meal. These days I do not have a constant like that. So, I am trying AIP. AIP starts by cutting out many foods (and NSAIDS) that can cause irritation and inflammation for 30 days, then slowly reintroduces foods while monitoring for reactions. At best, I hope that I will find that my inflammation was just high, and a 30-day break will be enough to calm and reset my system and, at the end of it all, I will find that I can reintroduce all of the various foods. More likely, I may be reacting to something–and I hope this will allow me to find out what.
AIP cuts out all grains, all dairy, all nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers (and pepper-based spices like cayenne, paprika, etc), white potatoes…don’t mind my tears), eggs (I’m sobbing), nuts and seeds and seed-based spices (bye cumin, fennel seed, cardamom, etc), pulses and beans (which includes soy, fresh legumes like green beans and peas, more typical beans like chickpeas…but also coffee and chocolate, which are made from beans/seeds).
What AIP does include are: meats, seafood, vegetables (except nightshades and fresh legumes), fruit, coconut, and a focus of nutrient-heavy foods like bone broth, gelatin, avocado, and offal (organ meats). I think I will survive this protocol by relying a lot on twist of old favorites: Pho-style broth with veggie noodles (or kelp noodles)–certain fish sauces are AIP-approved, along with lime, ginger, and garlic. Chicken lettuce wraps made with coconut aminos and mixed heavily with mushrooms and water chestnuts (which are not nuts and thus AIP-friendly). Plantain chips with liver pate. Bacon wrapped shrimp with chimichurri (minus the pepper flakes). Horseradish is AIP-approved, so I can work in a little spice to my dishes–plus beef and horseradish are on of. Turmeric chicken with coconut-milk-creamed spinach. Steak with parsnip puree. Sweet potato fries. Cauliflower Rice Risotto. Riceless sushi (nori is AIP-approved). Larb Gai (again favoring the fish sauce and lime–I foresee a lot of Thai this month). Lots and lots of soups: butternut squash & coconut, my new favorite carrot soup, French onion–minus the wine and the bread topping. I’m confident that I will make do.
Also, AIP is intended to be a temporary diet. Whilst the most restrictive phase can vary, depending on which foods trigger responses and how inflamed a body might be, this diet is not meant to be the rest of my (or anyone else’s) life. So, while all my friends are doing Whole30 or Dry January to ring in the new year, I’m just…committing to a few more omissions for my 30 days.
I’m starting AIP this week, riding the post-vacation “ugh I ate a bunch of junk and all I want is fresh food” wave as far as I can. With AIP, I have let go of my grocery budget, at least for the first week of two. This week, with all of the staples that I invested in (coconut aminos, arrowroot flour, coconut flour, avocado oil, etc), my grocery bill was expensive. Nearly three times as much as last year’s budget…oof. However, last year’s budget allowed us to reach this financial point, where we can be spending more on food for a few weeks without too much trouble. So for now, I’ll be meal-planning based on what I want to eat, within AIP standards, rather than sticking to a budget.
I started AIP on Tuesday this week, since we returned from our trip on Sunday and I didn’t have the chance to get to the store until Monday evening. As mentioned, much of my grocery purchases were stock up items to build my AIP pantry. And much of this week’s groceries were purchased at Wegman’s, since there were a few special items I needed. I rounded out with a little more from Trader Joe’s, but forgot to take that photo. We didn’t have a Hungry Harvest box this week, since we were on vacation.
Here is what I purchased for our AIP kick-off:
Wegman’s: Avocados, bananas, canned pumpkin, coconut flour, arrowroot flour, mint, celery, ground mace (the AIP sub for nutmeg), coconut milk, parsley, kale, shrimp, broccoli, butternut squash, green onions, clementines, bone broth, ground fresh ginger, ground fresh garlic, gelatin, ground pork, and bacon.
And from Trader Joe’s, I grabbed: frozen riced cauliflower, sweet potatoes, avocado oil, horseradish, sauerkraut, carrot juice, cranberry juice, and plantain chips.
Here’s what we are eating:
Tuesday: Butternut Squash Soup with crumbled Bacon I riffed off of Panera’s Squash Soup, minus the curry powder, cayenne, and added sugar, with coconut milk swapped for the dairy. Crisp up a few slices of bacon and crumble on top for some extra crunch.
Wednesday: Beef Kebabs with Cauli-rice Tabbouleh & Coconut Tzatziki I’m mixing some riced cauliflower with lots of cucumbers, parsley, and lemon for a tomato-free tabbouleh, and serving this all with extra cucumbers, quick-pickled red onion, and tzatziki made from coconut cream, ACV, mint, and cucumber.
Friday: Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp with Chimichurri Sauce & Sweet Potato Fries There is little in the world that I love as much as dip-able foods, so I’m playing to that advantage and stacking this week with dippy dinners. I love this Iowa Girl Eats shrimp and chimichurri dish, a direct inspiration.
Saturday: Leftovers just to make sure everything gets eaten up. With this much money going towards groceries, avoiding food waste is super important.
Breakfasts will be Sausage+Sweet Potato+Kale Hash or Carrot-Cauliflower-Banana Smoothies with frozen berries and avocado. Snacks will be plantain chips with or without avocado, fruit, turmeric lattes.
Are you ready?? When are you starting your prep? Thanksgiving is only 5 days away! Out of necessity, I will be doing my shopping tonight and cooking my first prep work (corn bread for stuffing) tomorrow night. The corn bread needs time to dry out–usually only 3 days, but I will not have a chance to make it on Sunday or Monday. So Saturday it is!
We are having the big day at M’s mum’s, like last year. We will have a fairly large gathering, including M’s sister and brother-in-law visiting from the UK. His brother-in-law has never attended Thanksgiving, so it should be quite fun!
Several guests are bringing dishes to share, and M’s mum is handling the turkey, so our contribution will be: Green Bean Casserole, Stuffing, and a couple of pies (probably Pecan and Pumpkin, maybe a third). I may even break out my Cranberry Chutney & Brie appetizer. Usually I save it until after Christmas, but since M’s sister and her husband are here, I might make an exception. If I cannot restrain myself, this recipe for glazed shallots looks amaaaaazing and may end up at the table as well!
I did want to take a moment to round up some of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving (and for Thanksgiving leftovers) that are on the blog. If you are still planning your menu, or looking for some leftover inspiration, check out the links below!
Gluten-Free Knock-off Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing — a total requirement each year!
Roast Chicken — can be inspiration for your roast Turkey. The aromatic and herbs would all work wonderfully. Be sure to adjust the cooking time to suit the size of your turkey!
Kale Salad — a super simple salad that is hearty enough to stand up to all the other Thanksgiving dishes!
Ginger-Carrot Soup — would be a lovely start to a more formal Thanksgiving meal with different courses.
My Favorite Gluten-Free Pie Crust — here’s a hint: make an extra batch of pie crust and stick it in the fridge. It’s my secret weapon for leftovers: wrap up turkey and veg to make hand pies, top a turkey pot pie, make a quiche, or roll it out, cut into pieces and bake for dipping into turkey pot pie soup!
Cranberry Chutney — if you can’t fit it into your Thanksgiving menu, you have to try it for your holiday parties! One of my favorite things EVER and one of those iconic dishes that no one forgets. Once December hits, everyone is always checking that I am bringing the cranberry chutney!
Rosemary & Honey Mustard Almonds — an easy, make-ahead recipes for nibbles, if you don’t want to commit to a full appetizer!
French Bread — make a batch to have on hand for soaking up all that turkey gravy!
Popovers — another twist on the bread roll accompaniment! A little lighter and airy, they won’t weigh you down nearly as much.
Pumpkin Swirl Brownies — an easy handheld dessert and always popular with kids!
Coconut-Pumpkin Custard — looking for a dairy-free and grain-free dessert? This still sticks close to those fall flavors!
Turkey Broccoli Quiche — my favorite quiche of ALL TIME and one that I only make once or twice a year, due to the need for turkey. It is sooo good!
Turkey Pot Pie — riff off of my go-to biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie, by simply subbing cooked turkey for the cooked chicken
Turkey Pot Pie Soup — for something a little different, but still comforting. I love baking up wedges of pie crust to dip into this soup!
Turkey Hash — the classic breakfast for post-Black Friday shopping.
Mashed Potato Pancakes — another easy post-Turkey Day breakfast, with a little less meat! These savory pancakes are delicious with a runny-yolked egg!
Things are getting busy here! We are closing in on finals, performances, and the holidays! I sent out a google form to our Thanksgiving guest this morning, just to keep track. We potentially have many people in attendance, so I need some hub to keep all the info on attendance and potluck dishes.
In the short-term, I’m getting ready for M’s birthday this weekend and for his sister and brother-in-law’s arrival from the UK a few days after that. Both will be wonderful times, I’m just trying to stay flexible in my meal-planning, as I don’t know when we might be seeing them/going out/etc.
This week, from the grocery store was mostly a stock up, including a full pound of beef for next week (Shepherd’s Pie is on the menu!). Next week’s shopping may be more stocking-up as well, especially with Thanksgiving nearly upon us. I need to eat down the freezer, so that I can use our excess dollars to grab a few extra packages of butter (I got through so much butter at Thanksgiving) and have room to store them.
We also got some fun produce from Hungry Harvest. Most notably, a couple of rutabagas. Did you know they are also called swedes? Also neeps (although, that can also be turnips)? I’d heard of neeps, but didn’t know what they were. I’d never heard of a vegetable called a swede. M, on the other hand, knew he liked swedes, but though he had never had rutabaga. And it’s all the same thing! Another weird twist of an American-British relationship.
More rutabaga fun facts: it’s a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. It’s super tasty roasted, mashed, or pureed into soup; as you would with potatoes or turnips. I went the soup route this week. After being spoiled by last week’s luscious carrot soup, I found myself wanting a bit more body to the soup, but it was tasty nonetheless! If I’d had cream on had, instead of 2% milk, to finish it off, I would have been very pleased.
Here’s how we spent:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Trader Joe’s: $9.77 (less $1 for the inedible mini Cinnamon broom)
Here’s what we got:
HH Produce Box: 2 oranges, 2 apples, baby spinach, cantalope, 2 rutabagas, 2 bell peppers, 1 onion, 2 zucchinis, & 2 sweet potatoes
Aldi: olive oil, chicken broth, veggie broth, celery, bacon, garlic, chopped walnuts, corn chips, yogurt, cranberries, diced tomatoes x2, cannelini beans x2, 3 lbs onions
Trader Joe’s: 1 lb ground beef, 2 lb frozen tater tots (I went in for polenta, which they did not have in stock, so I took the opportunity to stock up for next week)
Here’s what we’re eating:
Sunday: Mini reunion with High School Friends–I’m contributing Roast Garlic White Bean Dip and some cut veggies. Everyone is bringing a dish, so we’ll have plenty to eat!
Monday: Jumbalaya I’m making M cook it while I’m in class. We have all the meat in the freezer already and rice in the pantry, so he’ll use some peppers, onions, celery, broth, garlic, and canned tomatoes.
Tuesday: Rutabaga & Leek Soup, Spinach Salad, & Pan de Bono I’ll use some of the leeks left over from last week in a pureed soup with the rutabaga and broth. Pan de Bono is a bread roll made primarily with Queso Fresco, which I have stashed in the freezer and some flour from the pantry. I lightly dress the spinach and top with walnuts and dried cranberries to go along with the soup.
Wednesday: Zucchini Fried Rice + PF Chang’s GF Egg Drop Soup I was feeling pretty sick at work, so I picked up a quart of soup on my way home. We love that PF Chang’s has safely prepared, gluten-free options; and I love that their soup truly gels when cold–a sign of super-good-for-you gelatin and collagen in the broth. (Or it maybe cornstarch, but let me dream….) Needless to say, I wanted soup, so $10 later, here we are. I rounded it out with the Fried Rice that was already on my plan, to use up some veggies.
Thursday: I have a late meeting at work, that comes with plenty of snacks that will serve as my dinner. There a leftovers at home for M.
Friday: Chile Relleno Casserole. Tortillas from the pantry, Soy-rizo from the freezer, bits of cheese from last week, poblanos from our garden: this meal is almost entirely from the pantry. I’ll use the other can of tomatoes and some of the bell pepper and onions.
Saturday: Leftovers or something else from the pantry. It’s still a little up in the air.
Breakfasts will be: egg sandwiches, yogurt & fruit, or sweet potatoes. Lunches are leftovers. I’ll also make up a batch of banana muffins, this week, too.
This semester has been non-stop! But, in between work and classes, M and I have managed to see many of our friends, which makes all the hustle worth it. I’m not very good at keeping up with a regular social life. Usually, I decide I’ll just wait until next week when I’m less busy, and then I turn around and three months have passed. So, while its been a little hectic and tiring, I’m so glad that we have been out at a variety of activities almost every weekend! We’ve already hit two weddings this autumn, I’ve gone to a town festival and a winery birthday party, caught up with friends from high school, visited my family, gone down to North Carolina, and attended a DIY Wine and Paint night. It has been a great fall season thusfar.
I also hit a hugely important and exciting milestone: I paid off my student loans!! I had a little help from my uncle, which allowed me to pay them off for good last month, rather than sometime next year. I celebrated–as I have planned to for years–by buying myself a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. I discovered Le Creuset early on in my forays into the food blogging/cookery world and adored them, naturally. 🙂 However, I’ve always tended towards frugality, so the price tag wasn’t something that I could accept at any old time. When I realized the recommended starter size (between 4-5.5 quart models, according to the internet-at-large) was about the size of my monthly loan payments, I made a promise that I would use my first “payment” after I paid back my loans on an LC. And I have!
Of course, I agonized for weeks over what would by my Le Creuset color, because I know that it will influence future decor and color choices. That’s just the type of person I am! But, I have to admit that I’m not any closer to making that color decision. But, I saw this Petite Fruits special print and fell in love! I’d spied the print online, but worried that it was too small, being only a 4 quart size. But it seems plenty large and that print is my perfect temptation of delicate/nostalgic/grandmotherly. So I took it home last week! I broke it in with–what else?–a batch of Coq Au Vin that you’ll see in this week’s meal plan.
Another great milestone: M and I had our sixth anniversary earlier this month as well. We stayed home, but allowed ourselves whatever dinner we wanted. Steaks, shrimp, asparagus, and potato gratin was our choice. I got him whiskey, he got me Le Creuset Mini Cocottes and coffee mugs (I’d already dragged him along on a color-scoping mission the week before) and some new frying pans, which I desperately needed. It was a nice little evening for the two of us. And now M is experimenting with all sorts of en-cocotte recipes, much to my tastebuds’ delight. Bonus!
This week started out a little rough, as some of my schoolwork got entirely out of control on Sunday afternoon and I gave up all thought of making dinner and we had pizza instead. One less thing to think about, and sometimes, that’s all you need. We’ve also just been invited to carve pumpkins with friend, so I’m not sure if I will make the lasagna anyway (whether we eat it or bring it with us), or if it will get bumped to this weekend or even next week.
This is what I spent:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Wegman’s: (not pictured) about $6.00?*
*I’m swinging by Wegman’s tonight, as it’s the only reliable store to stock GF lasagna noodles, which should be about $4 for the box. I’ll also grab a pack or two of frozen spinach, since Aldi had none in stock. I fully expect to stay at budget!
This is what I got:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: Kale, 2 onions, 2 honeycrisp apples(!!), San Marzano tomatoes, 2 asian pears, 2 carrots (each as long as that wine bottle–totally giant!), butternut squash, 2 avocados (not pictured)
Aldi: 5 lbs potatoes, baby bella mushrooms, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, ricotta cheese x2, red wine, GF bread (it’s finally back in stock!), mozzarella cheese, milk, 3 lb chicken thighs, tomato paste
Wegman’s: (not pictured) Gluten-free lasagna noodles, Frozen spinach
+ (not pictured) 1.5 dozen eggs from my mom’s chicken lady
This is what we are eating:
Sunday: (Intended Squash Toast + Salad) instead: Pizza
Monday: At class–M had some leftover pizza and I scrambled a few eggs when I got home.
Tuesday: Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese–the soup has been in the cupboard for weeks, and I’ve never gotten around to it. Since M is out with friends and I work late, this will be the perfect, quick bite when I get home. Plus, it will be easy to make an extra sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch.
Wednesday: Coq Au Vin (in my Le Creuset *muffled screaming*) and Mashed Potatoes–one of our winter favorites 🙂 We have a sweet potato leftover from a previous box, and that will join the chicken, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and wine.
Thursday: Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna — one of my absolute favorite vegetarian dishes! Although a little time-consuming, since I have to start from scratch to ensure that it is gluten-free, it is so worth it. It makes many servings and is just sooooo good. Last time I made it, we stuck a few individually-wrapped servings in the freezer and it was a total godsend when we reached hectic days before the holidays.
Friday: Squash & Onion Toast and Kale Caesar Salad — from Smitten Kitchen. This was intend to be Sunday’s dinner, but it will do just fine on Friday, too. I’ll supplement the remaining Butternut squash with some acorn squash we have leftover from last week’s HH box and use up the rest of the ricotta cheese.
Saturday: Breakfast for dinner, out — I left this evening pretty flexible. This may end up being the lasagna, or some take-out, but I know I also have bacon, sausage, tomatoes, potatoes, eggs, and toast to serve up a hearty BFD, too.
Breakfasts will be oatmeal, eggs, or avocado toast. Lunches will be leftovers or a picnic-type mix of hard-boiled eggs, nuts, veggies, etc from the pantry with a piece of fruit. I expect to have a giant carrot, an avocado, potatoes, and tomatoes leftover for next week, as well as bits of most of the cheese, several chicken thighs, and the milk and wine, obviously.
I’m still loving my Hungry Harvest boxes each week, and I’m happy to announce that I am now a Hungry Harvest ambassador. Mostly, that means I’m encouraged to share my love of HH (which I feel like I do pretty often already) and it also means that I can share this link with you: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj If you are interested in trying HH, you can use this link and enter code “HERO5” to get a couple dollars off your first box (and I would get a discount on my next box, as well). Want to be a #hungryharvesthero with me?
On a final note, with my loans now paid off, most of my “payments” will be going to my savings account, to beef things up there. However, I’m playing with the idea of adding $10 to my weekly grocery budget. This would specifically go towards improving the quality of our animal products. M and I absolutely support pastured, cage-free animal raising, but have been limited by our budget before now. I’d love to be better at supporting those practices with my dollars, so you may see an increase in our budget for that exact reason. What stores would you recommend for finding pastured meats, cheeses, and dairy-products? (Our eggs are good–they come from spoiled backyard chickens that are more pets than anything else) Aldi’s meats are already pretty limited, so I think I can only count on finding some CF/Pastured chicken and perhaps some ground beef. As you can tell, I’m not opposed to going to multiple stores for my grocery shopping. Trader Joe’s and Giant are very accessible to us, and I can make Wegman’s happen. I have very little experience with Whole Foods (and I’m worried that I still couldn’t fit that into my budget) and we’ve had a Lidl open up near us as well. Which store do you prefer?
Happy Labor Day! M and I have made the best of the weekend. On Saturday, we drove up to Baltimore with a friend. I was the only one of the trio who had been to the National Aquarium, so we braved the cold drizzly day to enlighten the guys. I have fond memories of visiting the aquarium when I was a kid (before many of the renovations). Seriously: museums, aquariums, zoos…all my favs. I will always go. Thankfully, I live close enough to D.C. that I can scratch my museum itch with all of the free Smithsonian institutions. Anyways, we got our fill of sharks and fish and three-finned seat-turtles. (That turtle has been there since I can remember–and was super active all day, which was awesome).
Then we did a little googling to find the locals choice for seafood, rather than any of there over-priced chains surrounding the National Harbor. We ended up at LP Steamers and feasted on blue crabs, shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters. Add a basket of fries and a cider, and I was a happy girl.
On Sunday, we drove down to see A at her new townhouse and to reunite Punc with her sister. That dog has been so forlorn whenever we visit my mother, because Panda isn’t there to play with her anymore.
We stopped by Potters’ Craft Cidery, just because it was 10 minutes down the road. All of the ciders were nicely light, and I appreciated that all of them–even the fruited styles, were not very sweet. Its a good brand to look out for, as their distribution grows! We took Skyline Drive for the way back. Driving through mountains with an audiobook playing was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
We were back to reality today, tidying the house and grocery shopping, etc. This week’s groceries was a lot of indulgence and some stocking up. We are gone again this weekend, down to North Carolina, so I only had to worry about four dinners this week. I brought my friend to Aldi for the first time and was a little distracted by explaining everything in the store. Also, the store was pretty sparse. They obviously hadn’t stocked up since before the weekend, hence my going over budget. The bacon I grabbed was in the wrong box–I was expecting a $3.19 price point. Not so much…premium instead.
In addition to all in the meal plan, I made a plum cake with the plums from last week. The cake base is from Flavor Flours, which I would highly recommend! I love that the focus is on the individual flours and how the taste and texture can complement various types of confectionary and pastry. We are just about back to our regular Fall schedules, so I’m hoping that this week will be the start of my working out the routine for this season. Anyways, lets look at these groceries…
Here’s what I spent:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Here’s what I got:
HH Produce Box: Zucchini, tomato, 2 onions, 2 crowns of broccoli, 2 asian pears, 1 avocado, 2 mangos, 2 clementines, 3 romaine hearts.
Aldi: 1.5 lbs top round steak, butter, bacon, shredded cheese, olive oil, cream cheese, sausage links, Swiss cheese, goat cheese, peanut butter, half & half, white wine
+ 18 eggs from my mother’s coworker
Here’s what we’re having:
Sunday: Out on the road.
Monday: Turkey-Broccoli Quiche with a side salad I found some turkey stashed in our freezer, so the broccoli in this week’s box was rather serendipitous. This is my all-time favorite quiche, and I’m usually constrained to making it around the holidays when there are turkey leftovers. It is a nice surprise to make it in September! 1 crown of broccoli will go in to this.
Tuesday: Leftovers while M is out and I work the late shift. More quiche! I’m not complaining!
Wednesday: Steak with Balsamic Tomatoes, Roasted Broccoli, Smashed Potatoes A nice indulgence, since steak usually isn’t in the budget. Unfortunately, prices weren’t as great as I was expecting for beef, but this will still be super tasty. We’ll likely supplement the HH tomato with one of our own from our garden. This will use up the rest of the broccoli, and a few red potatoes that have lingered in the pantry for a couple of weeks.
Thursday: Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese, Zucchini & Roasted Tomatoes I stumbled across this recipe last week and it looks tasty. Last week’s cauliflower never made it into rice, so it will be used up here; along with this week’s zucchini and plenty of cherry tomatoes from our garden.
Friday: Cobb Salad with the rest of the romaine, some bacon, hard-boiled eggs, shredded cheddar, tomatoes, and bleu cheese dressing from the fridge.
Saturday: Road-trip to North Carolina for M’s nephew’s birthday! We’ll be making our traditional stop into the Saxapahaw General Store. They always have great local goodies. I’ll be grabbing a couple more bottles of their elderberry syrup, for sure. I mix it into my kombucha for flavor + an extra immunity boost!
Breakfasts will be eggs or oatmeal. Lunches will be leftovers+fruit.
This week is one of those weeks that I am reminded why we follow our budget. Keeping such a low budget week-to-week means that when we reach these weeks where we want to splurge a little, or we have social obligations calling us to go out several times that week, we can usually manage to do so. Being frugal day-to-day has allowed us to have the extra money to fund busy weeks like this one. We’ll be out 4 nights this week–one at a barbecue where we will bring dishes to share, and up to three others out at restaurants for various events.
As we get nearer to Fall, my time at our Farmer’s Market grows more and more limited. Once our Saturday rehearsals begin, I have to be at work early enough that I am not able to get to the Farmer’s Market. M and I went this week, knowing there was a chance that it could be our last market of the season. Although my Saturday class don’t begin for another two weeks, it is likely that we will travel for Labor Day weekend and we will be away in NC for the following weekend. With this in mind, I bargained to spend an extra $20 this week, bringing our budget up to $70, so we could get some favorite items from the market. Thanks to our produce box, we rarely need any vegetables. The market’s pickle stall is wonderful, so we grabbed a pint each of Sweet Onion Sriracha Pickles and Pickled Beets, for a total of $9. I spent another $4.50 on stone fruits, because I’ve been dreaming of cakes+stone fruits. The small, sweet prune plums will be perfect in a tarte-tatin style cake or clafoutis. The green plums were new to me, and I still haven’t filled my peach galette craving.
Last week, I tried to make one and my pizza stone cracked into 4 pieces in the oven, effectively destroying the galette along with it. I’m still not sure what caused it to crack, but it was a very sad day, indeed. Now I have the peaches to make (and hopefully actually taste) another galette. My sweet tooth is out of control, so I’ll keep an eye on the fruit throughout the week…if I can spread my baking into next week, I will.
M and I went grocery shopping on our way home from the Farmer’s Market. The unspent $5 from my Market splurge was spent on chocolate. Aldi carries European-style chocolate that is a little hard to find in the States, so it is always a temptation when M comes shopping with me. Knowing that I’d really only be cooking 3-4 meals this week, I planned on Bulgogi’s slightly more expensive beef. I knew I had room in the budget for it. The rest of the groceries went to a few ingredients to round out our meals, but mostly to a sorely-needed baking stock up. We were entirely out of sugar and salt–which falls into a hazy category. We do use iodized salt in our shakers and in baking, but most of it will actually go into scrubbing our cast iron…which isn’t exactly food, I suppose. Oh well, the few cents spent on it is fairly negligible.
I won’t get to the cauliflower in this week’s produce box, so I will be making it into cauliflower rice to stash in the freezer. I’ll also finally be bottling a fresh batch of kombucha (long-neglected over my busy summer), as well as a batch of bone broth from our stash of freezer bones. I’m still slightly off in terms of my digestion and overall well-being, but I think both of these items will help me feel better!
My classes for grad school start this week. While I am taking the same number of credits as past semesters, it is spread over three classes. So I am facing 6 hours of class on Monday afternoons and a Friday class on some weeks as well. I’ve finally passed the halfway point and will be graduating at the end of next year or in the Spring of 2019. It seems both very far away, but also fairly close. Hopefully I can keep everything in balance this semester.
Here’s what I spent:
Hungry Harvest Produce Box: $15.00
Farmer’s Market: $13.50
Aldi: $28.64 (on food–we also got a harness for Punc)
Here’s what I got:
HH Box: 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 2 apples, 2 lemons, 2 asian pears, 1 onion, 1 head red leaf lettuce, cauliflower, 1 lb green beans
Farmer’s Market: 2 peaches, 2 green plums, 1 pint prune plums, 1 pint pickles, 1 pint pickled beets
H-Mart: 2 lbs bulgogi-cut beef, 1 dozen eggs
Aldi: 2 chocolate bars, olive oil spray, 3 lbs lemons, cashews, 1 qt yogurt, ricotta cheese, salt, green onions, sour cream, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar
Here’s what we’re eating:
Saturday: Out to a Barbecue I made deviled eggs and a double batch of lemon bars to contribute.
Sunday: Bulgogi Beef with Rice and Lettuce and green onions, carrots, and onion topping. We had all the ingredients for ssamjang in the fridge already, plus soy sauce for the marinade. We wrapped up the beef and rice in the lettuce from our produce box
Monday: At Class. There are leftovers for M and I made a batch of rhubarb-streusel muffins on Sunday with pantry ingredients. I’ve frozen the muffins and took a muffin + 2 oz of cashews along with me to class. I also brought coffee and water from work (free).
Tuesday: Out for M’s mum’s birthday At least I think we are going out. If need be, I can move up Friday’s pasta dish to tonight.
Wednesday: Friend’s Going Away Party at a Thai restaurant, so at least there will be plenty of leftovers for Thursday lunch!
Thursday: Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage in Browned Butter I’ve had the squash for months, but luckily these keep well. It will make plenty of extra gnocchi to freeze for later. Plus fresh sage from the garden and a little browned butter.
Friday: Ricotta Pasta with Green Beans and Tomatoes All fresh ingredients this week, except for pasta from the pantry. If we end up eating this earlier this week, I can make risotto with roasted tomatoes instead.
Saturday: Out on a Day Trip
Breakfasts are avocado toast (with avocados from last week), eggs, yogurt+fruit. Lunches are leftovers, overnight oats, or hard-boiled eggs.